Today is my 29th birthday!
To celebrate the beginning of the final year of my 20s, I have compiled a list of 28 things that I have learned – good, bad, happy and sad – over the past year.
1. Success is a Moving Target
Think back to when you were 18. What was your idea of success? For me, it was typical – married with a nice house, nice cars and a 9-5 job. Check. At 23, it was being in management, being a salary employee instead of hourly and making at least $50,000 per year. Check. Now, my idea is having multiple income sources and exiting the rat race for good. And I would be crazy to think that achieving this will make me feel successful. I will always strive for more, just as I have after accomplishing each previous idea of success. Who knows, I may change my mind completely about this idea of success in the next year, and that would be okay too.
2. Happiness is a Mood, Not a Goal
You know the moment. You finally hit a goal you’ve been working toward for such a long time, and you’re happy. You share your accomplishment with friends and family, and they express happiness for you. You post on social media for everyone in your circle to see, and their comments are full of happiness for you. Before too long, the accomplishment sinks in. More and more normal thoughts – daily responsibilities, family concerns, work duties – begin setting up shop in your head again. Soon, you’re thinking of your next goal or thing you want. Happiness is a wonderful, temporary feeling. It is not a goal.
3. Boundaries are as Difficult as They are Necessary
My mom and I had a great relationship for most of my adult life until about three years ago when it started getting strained. She went through a divorce and started seeing a man who has a terrible reputation in our small town. After a few months they were married. Her alcohol consumption increased at the same rate as the calls my husband and I received in the middle of the night from her wanting help. When she was in a sling due to physical abuse from him, she talked of leaving, which I encouraged her to do, but never did. At that point I asked that she not involve my husband and I in their issues any further, resulting in me hearing almost nothing from her anymore. It’s a situation ridden with a full range of emotions for me, and it’s very difficult. I cannot bear to be involved anymore.
4. Having a Spouse Who Forgives and Forgets is Priceless
My husband is a simple man. I, on the other hand, annoy myself with constant thoughts that, on my worst days, spiral into anxiety, fear and uncertainty. Sometimes I get locked in my own head, shutting my husband out, and many times I’m whiny, unfriendly, selfish and just not that great of a person. And I know that he usually just does not understand why, but he forgives me and has not once resented me, held my words and actions against me or even brought them up at a later time. It provides me with an unexplainable level of security and acceptance.
5. My Alone Time is Sacred
I was raised as an only child until the age of 12 when my half-sister came into my life shortly after my parents’ divorce. Being a responsible, well-behaved child, I chose to stay home when given the choice instead of accompanying my parents somewhere uninteresting to me. Even when my parents were home, I would be found in my room listening to music and reading with the door shut. After my parents divorced and life became switching homes, rules, and which version of myself I was every three days, being at my dad’s house meant mostly being alone due to his work schedule, including when he was on night shift. I left home at 17 to a short stint in a dorm room with a roommate who quickly found a boyfriend to live with, leaving me alone. At 20, I got my first one bedroom apartment, alone, and bought a house several years later – alone. Becoming a wife and stepmother over a year ago has almost completely depleted my alone time. As grateful as I am to have my own family now, I miss being with myself, alone.
6. People Don’t Think About Me Nearly as Much as I Think They Do
Seriously. I mean, how much of your time do you spend thinking about other people? We spend the vast majority of our time thinking of ourselves, our families and our current situations, worries and hopes. At least I do; maybe you’re different. When it comes to choices, I’m always afraid of what people will think. With each blog post, especially journal posts, comes anxiety about what thousands of strangers and a few personal family members and friends will think. But I love to write, and sharing my life with the world is an extremely freeing and therapeutic process. I wish I had started years ago when I wanted to, but I was too scared of what people would think. Going back further, I think back from time to time on how I quit band after my eighth grade year in fear of being labeled a loser by my new high school peers. I loved playing the clarinet, and I won first chair almost every time. Being scared of what people think – what a ridiculous reason to waste such a love and talent.
7. No One has a Copy of My Script
Logical, right? Humans are unfortunately not logical creatures though. I have a tendency to get disappointed or even upset if people, mainly my husband, do not respond or react as I expected they would. I’m working on realizing that I only have control of my responses and my reactions. I can’t expect people to act as I would, and I cannot justify my disappointment by saying, “Well, if I were you I would have said/done this instead.” If I were that person, I would have done exactly what they did.
8. There’s Still Time to Change the Road I’m On
Robert Plant sang it best. I focus so much sometimes on making decisions that I hope benefit my future self’s situation, but who knows who my future self will even be. Trying to meet the wants and needs of a person who doesn’t even exist yet is impossible. I can and will change my path and direction time and time again as I grow and evolve.
9. I Don’t Have to Have Kids
I just don’t. I might decide one day that I want my own, but as for the present, I don’t. I’m finally becoming more accepting of that fact, and pulling the weight of society’s pressure off myself.
10. Actually, I Don’t Have to Do Anything
The expectations of family, friends and society overall – they mean less and less to me. Fighting the constant flow of expectations is exhausting sometimes but is definitely preferred to living a life untrue to myself.
11. I Cannot Make Choices in Fear of Regret
The kid thing, for example. Sometimes I’m afraid that when I’m old I’ll regret not having my own children and grandchildren. But who knows, maybe I won’t. I can’t do or not do things just because I’m scared that I’ll regret it. I will always wish I had done something differently no matter what choices I make in life.
12. My Body is Not What It was in High School
…or in my early 20s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just different. As my metabolism finally starts to slow down, I have to adjust and actually start focusing more on my health. After all, what’s the point of achieving financial independence if I’m not healthy enough to enjoy the life I’ve earned?
13. I Can Accomplish Anything I Want to Accomplish
It’s cliché, but I cannot convey to you how life changing it is to finally realize this after a lifetime of self-imposed limits. This journey of becoming debt free quickly turned into a larger, life changing journey of personal development and self-improvement. Inferiority and not being good enough have been prominent feelings as far back as I can remember. Brainwashing myself by listening to uplifting podcasts and reading motivational books, articles and blog posts has enabled me to begin exercising more control over my thoughts and actions. My progress is extremely slow, but it is there. I’m getting better at recognizing the beginning of a mental slope of self-doubt, and I’m getting better at bringing myself back to reality. It’s a struggle, and it will get easier.
Freedom Control is What I Desire Most
This is a very recent one. If you had asked me months ago, even a couple weeks ago, “What do you desire most?” the answer would have been freedom, without hesitation. However, earlier last week, a podcast that I listen to frequently changed that for me. Passive Real Estate Investing with Marco Santarelli is not exactly the most invigorating or exciting of the podcasts I listen to, but his latest episode features an interview with Dean Graziosi, author of Millionaire Success Habits.
About 30 minutes into the interview, Dean mentions that a lot of people’s answers to the same question would be financial freedom, but he takes it further by essentially asking “why” again to each answer, seven times on average, until reaching the true “why.” What he explained about himself next hit me with resonation so hard that tears were streaming down my face in my cubicle as I listened. Dean’s parents were married nine times during his childhood and moved several times. He thought as an adult that what he desired most was to be able to provide choices for his children, and at the root of that desire was that he never felt he had any control as a child. His real “why” was to have control over his life.
So many memories of my parents fighting, leaving, introducing me to new mates, complaining to me about the other parent or a lack of money, showing me photos of the other in bed with someone else before being taken to talk to lawyers, making me feel guilty for wanting to be at one house instead of the other, gaining and losing new spouses, children and homes, and getting mad at me for liking my dad’s new girlfriend more than my mom’s new boyfriend or vice versa came flooding back. Growing up, I always felt so powerless watching my parents and being forced to be a part of the things that were suddenly happening to me. My family ripping themselves apart and all of their subsequent selfish actions left me with such a complex about having control, and now, to me, having control over my financial life enables me to have the freedom I value.
With that being said,
15. Just Because It’s Someone Else’s Fault Doesn’t Mean It’s Not My Responsibility
A lot of what I just talked about is the fault of my parents, but they are not responsible for working through mental limitations I’ve developed from childhood experiences. That responsibility is mine and mine alone.
16. Spontaneity is the Best
In this stage of my life, almost all I do is mapped out. I love making plans, value routine and thrive when I am organized, but before long, I start getting antsy. I am making an effort to switch things up in my daily routine to incorporate a little sense of adventure into my everyday life, such as leaving earlier some days to take a different route to work or trying new walking trails instead of the same one I’ve visited for the last several years.
On that note,
17. I Miss Traveling
For a couple years, I traveled constantly for work. There were long stretches of time where I would be home only every other week, and a few months where I would come home only on the weekends, if that. It got old fast, especially when I started dating the man I would later marry. But, there was always a new town to get accustomed to, people to meet, different accents to listen to, new food to try out. I miss that. Traveling will definitely be a part of my life again after we pay off our house and get settled in with our new goals.
18. Wear the Right Shoes
I love to walk, and I do a lot of it. Doing so allows me to have time to myself to clear my head and recharge while getting some sun and exercise. However, I have not been able to in the last couple weeks due to some tendon issues I’ve had from not wearing shoes that fit properly. I wear a size 9 – okay, I wear a 9 ½ – but insecurities about this usually lead to me wearing a shoe that just fits. And I know, that’s just crazy. New shoes that fit me are sitting in my closet, waiting to be worn after I’m ready to go walking again.
19. There are Other People Like Me
They may be spread across the country and even across the world, but there are others like me. It’s so reassuring. Since setting up my blog and social media accounts, I have made new friends who I talk to as often, and at times more, than my friends in “real life.” It has been such an awesome experience.
20. I’m Not Perfect
It’s one thing to know this, but it’s a very different thing to accept it. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’ll understand what I mean. Finally, in my extremely late 20s, I am okay with this. I used to beat myself up all day for the smallest mistakes at work and apologize to the point of annoyance to my husband when I did something that deserved just a simple “I’m sorry.” Not being perfect is much more fun and much more relaxing. Making mistakes brings so much more opportunity for growth. Trying to be perfect is not only impossible, but limiting.
21. Everything Changes
Things are not the way they were a year ago, and of course they’re not. My youngest cousin will have a new daughter a few months after returning to high school as a senior. An uncle and two cousins no longer have those titles due to a sudden, unexpected separation and divorce. My best friend and I don’t seem to relate as much anymore after a decade of close friendship. My grandparents do not bounce back from health problems like they used to. Another uncle is in rehab for alcohol addiction, and my mom probably should be too. My husband has a new boss, had to shave his beard, has many new responsibilities and now wears a suit every day. I came up with a pen name one night on a whim that has led to a journey the past year that has completely changed my life for the better. Next year, I’ll be looking back with a whole new list of things that have changed.
22. I Will Look Back at this Moment in Time and Miss It
Just as I have with all the previous times and stages in my life. I focus on the future so much that I have to remind myself to stop and take a look around and be grateful for life the way it is right now. I’ll miss this.
23. Thirty is Not Old
Even though it does still sound old to me. But really, it’s just a number, and at 28, I am just now figuring out and changing who I am. As strange as it is to be turning 29 and to have one last year of my 20s, I’m excited to continue moving forward, learning, evolving and excelling.
24. People Change When They’re Ready to Change
The idiom, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” is so painfully true. I have learned to not waste my time worrying about the decisions of others who say they are about to make changes but continue to act in their old ways. If/when they land on a big enough reason to change, they will.
25. Everyone Has Strengths that Inspire Others
I was recently talking to a friend and mentor whom I met when she asked to interview me for her website, kimgaleta.com. She blows me away almost every day by just doing things without holding herself back, and she has been such an inspiration for me along the way. I told her this, and she replied saying how strange it is to hear that from me since she gains so much inspiration from me, which in turn, was strange for me to hear. As much as we admire certain characteristics of our heroes, chances are that they admire characteristics about us too.
26. To Slow Down
It’s funny how being gazelle intense has actually slowed me down, in such a positive way. Since becoming a licensed driver at 16, I have stayed in the left lane, going about 10 MPH over the speed limit. I would take the fastest route home after work every day. I would have tunnel vision when walking and jogging in an attempt to get the most out of the exercise. Nowadays, I’m in the right lane, looking around and singing my heart out as other vehicles zoom past me. I take a route home that is a couple minutes longer but takes me by the beautiful river that I love so much. I stop on the walking bridge to watch the turtles for a few minutes during my walk. There’s simply no reason to be in such a hurry all the time.
27. Journaling is Now an Everyday Necessity
I started in May, and as I do so many things, I wish I would have started a long, long time ago. Nothing helps me sort through my thoughts more than journaling. On top of that, I go back through what I’ve written, highlight words I’ve used to describe what I was feeling (anxious, scared, aggravated, excited, etc.) and review what the triggers were to make me feel that way. In the case of anxiety, which I am really trying to work on, I write out what is making me anxious, what is the worst that could happen and how I would handle that, and what I actually expect to happen. After the event is over that caused my anxiety, I go back to that page and write out what actually ended up transpiring. It has helped me see that 100% of the time so far, I felt that way for nothing.
Want to learn about yourself and what makes you tick? Pick up a cheap notebook and keep it with you while you’re at work and at home. Each time you feel your mood change, write about it. Go back every couple weeks and review. It’s eye-opening.
28. I Have a Voice
I do not have a strong personality. I’m not loud, and I start feeling really anxious very fast if I find myself as the center of attention. I do not like to lead at work, and am much happier and more comfortable in the passenger seat of a vehicle. As a teenager, I was extremely quiet and timid unless I knew someone well, and since my personality has never really matched my appearance, I would get dubbed a snob instead of just a shy, awkward person. As an adult, I don’t tend to speak up in a group of more than about three people or so, unless I feel extremely confident about what I am to say. My opinions on things do not usually line up with those of the people I am surrounded by most of the time, and I don’t care about politics, current events or the fears that I feel the media likes to impose on us, so I don’t have a lot to add to conversations about those topics. But I am an intelligent person, and I do have a voice. I’m just much more willing to use it about things I feel that I know and care about, and I’m much better at using it through written words rather than orally.
28 is not considered a milestone age, but it was for me. For the first time in my life, I feel that I have a purpose. Let’s see what changes 29 brings to my life. Thank you for celebrating with me!